ASUU-Appointed Task Force to Decide Whether to Make Campus Smoke-Free

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The ASUU Assembly and Senate voted in April to form a task force of faculty and students to examine a potential smoking ban on campus. Now, five months later, that committee is just starting to be put together.

Dean of Students Lori McDonald, who’s leading the group, said many members on the task force were unavailable during Summer Semester. And now that it’s time to reconvene, she’s not sure who is still planning to participate.

The original group, which met just once at the end of spring, included Stephen Alder, chief of the Division of Public Health at the School of Medicine; Robin Marcus, chief wellness officer at the U; and Allyson Mower, former president of the Academic Senate. McDonald hopes to clear up any confusion among these and others who will serve on the task force by the start of October.

“We need to get together and get a game plan,” she said.

The committee, which will have about 10 to 15 members, will also include students appointed by the current ASUU administration. Vice President Anthony Oyler said he plans to choose a “wide range of students” who will offer a variety of perspectives, including both nonsmokers and smokers.

“The students serving on the committee need to represent the entire student body,” he said in a statement via email. “They speak for them and must place themselves in everyone’s shoes. That being said, they must also balance using their experience and knowledge to make a decision that they think is best for the entire campus.”

Though McDonald isn’t sure about the exact ratio, university staff will outnumber students on the task force. It is also weighted with medical professionals who she said might come in with ideas of what they’d like to change. The purpose of the task force, however, as outlined by the passed legislation in ASUU, is to gather information about smoking on campus and update previous surveys — the most recent of which, a 2011 Center for Student Wellness study, found that 4.99 percent of students considered themselves “habitual smokers.”

After interviewing students and faculty on campus, McDonald said the committee will make an objective recommendation formed by the data during Spring Semester to the current Senate and Assembly, who can pass or veto the measure. This could include banning all tobacco products from campus, creating designated smoking areas or not changing anything. The university is mandated by state law to follow the Utah Clean Air Act, which already requires patrons to be 25 feet away from the entrance of any building to smoke.

If a ban is instituted, though, it would be enforced through an honor system similar to other universities nationwide with smoke-free policies, such as UCLA and the University of North Dakota, where students informally agree to abide by the rules. More than 1,500 colleges in the U.S. have smoke-free campuses, according to the advocacy group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

Brigham Young University and Dixie State University are the only Utah schools with no-smoking guidelines. Utah State University previously considered enforcing a ban but has not come to a resolution. Additionally, four Pac-12 schools – Arizona State University, University of Oregon, Oregon State University and UCLA – have smoke-free parameters, and the remaining eight schools, with the U as the last to join the conversation, are looking into similar policies.

The U’s measure was initially introduced by former student body Vice President Madison Black, who called for an outright ban of smoking, including e-cigarettes, for “the betterment of health on campus” with the first draft of her bill. It was later amended to include the task force. Now if ASUU decides to pass the committee’s suggestion, McDonald said it will be reviewed by a policy committee, the Academic Senate, the Board of Trustees and U President David Pershing as part of a longer process.

“I know when people hear things about changing a policy as important as that they may have strong feelings,” she said, “but the point is that we want to gather some information.”

Students interested in serving on the task force, or those who have questions, can email Oyler at afratto@asuu.utah.edu.

c.tanner@dailyutahchronicle.com

@CourtneyLTanner

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